Monday, 7 May 2012

we need more transparency

so.  kim dotcom.

i have no opinion on whether he is a good guy or a bad guy.  he is what he is.  as for the criminal charges against him, i'm happy to leave that for the court to decide - as long as a fair process is used.

but what i do obect to is the fact that someone with bucket-loads of money is able to attempt to destabilise the nz government.  i think that fact tends to get lost, because the object of his attention is the hugely unpopular john banks.

now i'll be the first one cheering when mr banks loses his ministerial warrants, and i'll be happier still when he's no longer an MP.  in fact, it would please me immensely if he would retire from all public life, and we never had to hear from him via any of our media.  i hate the ideas he holds, i hate the racism he so obviously displays and the contempt he displays towards people who are doing so well.  no matter how imperfect those people might be, they are probably a degree better than mr banks.

regardless of all of that, we have a duly elected government in nz, and mr banks has put himself in a position where he is vulnerable, and because of the configuration of this parliament, the government is vulnerable.  that simply shouldn't be allowed to happen, because i can think of plenty of situations where the outcome would be disastrous to nz.

even with the current scenario, we are now looking at the possibility of colin craig entering parliament on his platform.  and the "no-asset-sales" policy is definitely not enough to compensate for some of the others.  that mr key would start making positive noises about the conservative party means that a by-election is looking increasingly likely.  but given that any small party or independent that wins the epsom electorate will hold the balance of power, what will that power mean for many of us nz'ers?  those of us from minority religious groups for example.  for reproductive rights, as another example.

so while i'd love to cheer mr dotcom on, i find that i can't.  because i hate that he is able to do what he is doing - even though he didn't necessarily create the situation, more that he is just benfitting from it.  any wrong-doing that may have occurred clearly is the responsibility of mr banks, aided by a law that doesn't seem to be doing what it was designed to do: prevent known donors to give "anonymously".

i think we have long come to the time where donations over a certain amount must be declared - ie that parties and candidates can not have anonymous donations.  i'm not certain what the exact amount would be - i'd probably go for $10,000 for parties and mayoral candidates, and $5,000 for invidual MPs and city councillors.  and there should be look-through provisions, so that any trusts would have to declare the source of donations as well, if it wasn't from their own business earnings.

it's the only way we can know who is paying for our democracy to function, and then we can come to our own conclusions about why they would be paying such amounts.  transparency is essential to democracy. it's certainly essential to ensure that big money donors can't, at some later stage, threaten to out themselves in order to pressure the government, or for whatever other reason they might have.


Deborah said...

I would be very, very surprised if Colin Craig was able to take Epsom. I suspect that many of the women and men in Epsom are more than a little tired of being told who to vote for, only to have it go so badly wrong, so I don't think they would vote for him on strategic grounds, and the appeal of his conservative party is very limited.

I'd be going for $1,000 thresholds for declaring donations, with donations traced back to natural persons, or listed companies (i.e. listed on the NZSE). I think we need to be able to see through trusts and private companies to the people who are deciding to support particular political parties. Of course there are ways around this sort of law. All you have to do is hold a dinner where the places cost $5,000 each. That's a fundraiser, not a donation. But at least you can see who attends the dinners.

Hugh said...

"even though he didn't necessarily create the situation, more that he is just benfitting from it."

I think Dotcom absolutely did create the situation, actually. I mean, he chose to give that money to Banks. Maybe he was approached, but he had the ability to say no. So he really has to bear responsibility.

I'm not even sure he is benefiting from it, really. I mean, if Banks loses his ministerial warrants and/or his seat, does Dotcom really benefit? It won't help him avoid being extradited. I'm tempted to speculate on why he's doing what he's doing, but I don't have any particular insight into what's going on in his head. But I am really struggling to see what he would gain materially from Banks' proverbial scalp.

stargazer said...

I suspect that many of the women and men in Epsom are more than a little tired of being told who to vote for

yeah, that's what people said last year but somehow they don't seem to tire of it at all. they'll do whatever it takes to keep a national government in power, regardless of the consequences for the rest us. if twitter is anything to go by, the rest of us are not fans of colin craig at all.

re the thresh-hold, i think $1,000 would be too onerous for a largish party.

I mean, he chose to give that money to Banks

yes, but according to his own statements, he wasn't fussed about giving it anonymously. if he had given a declared and transparent donation, then this situation wouldn't have arisen. that fact is still in dispute, with mr banks denying he asked for the donations to be split to ensure anonymity, though his party chairperson wasn't too clear about it all. if we take mr dotcom at his, and unless proved otherwise, he can't be held responsible for the current situation.

also, it doesn't matter whether or not he gains. he is able to put the stability of government into doubt, even if it is only for the few months before a bi-election, and that is not a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Stargazer, you are asking the wrong questions.

Why did Dotcom go to jail and have his assets seized for allegations against him, while John Banks has not. What benefit does Dotcom get if Banks sits beside him in jail?

For Colin Craig this is just publicity. A party out of parliament gets none. Even if he loses a by-election (and that's probably likely) he's gained media coverage that wasn't there previously.

And Banks doesn't hold the balance of power, that is the Maori Party. John Key can govern without Banks and Dunne.


Hugh said...

"yes, but according to his own statements, he wasn't fussed about giving it anonymously. if he had given a declared and transparent donation, then this situation wouldn't have arisen."

That's true, I didn't think of that.

Also, although I hate to ruin the possibility of vaguely dirty jokes, I think it's by-election, not bi-election.

Annani said...

Well, I think Banks was either hopelessly naive or hopelessly stupid to think that he could accept that sort of sum of money from someone like Dotcom and not have it come back to bite him in the arse later on. Did he not realise that by not declaring who the donation was from, he was giving Dotcom tremendous power over him?

I wouldn't be half surprised if Dotcom decided to shake up the NZ govt out of sheer boredom. But I don't harbour any resentment for him. Like the old saying, you can't be angry at a canary for singing. And I think Banks needs to take responsibility for the bed he made himself.

As for Colin Craig standing in Epsom - I think the people of Epsom are enormously economically conservative in that they don't want the government touching their giant pots of money. But I have an inkling that they're not quite as socially conservative as Craig's party. Nevertheless, if there is a by-election, it'll be some much-desired publicity for the Conservative Party which will no doubt put them in a stronger position to cross that 5% mark at the next election. Which, yep, scary as all get-out.